Culinary Conundrums


Cooking away from home — especially for a young bachelor — can be quite cumbersome unless the person is genuinely excited about it. For starters, you don’t have the exact kitchen arsenal you are used to handling back home: induction stove instead of LPG-run, a rice cooker in place of a pressurised model, a one-size-fits-all tawa and a knife that can’t even seem to cut through butter.

Stage two involves realising that vegetables don’t magically appear on opening the fridge and the bold step of going out to purchase them. This is a highly educational exercise guaranteed to make you realise how expensive onions are or that your vendor doesn’t completely understand what ‘aubergine’ or ‘brinjal’ actually mean.

When it comes down to getting your hands dirty, you realise you will never dice or julienne the carrots the way your mom can or add the exact amount of salt to the sautéing paneer dish like she does. But you do remember her last-stop solution to all this. “Just throw in those Maggi magic cubes!”

Lunches and dinners never go as planned and are always set behind by a good two hours (by this time your friends have decided its okay to order a Dominos or binge on the Lays and Coke.) It’s O.K. if sunflower oil replaces the extra-virgin olive one on your pasta or you slightly overdosed the Kashmiri lal mirch powder. This is not MasterChef Australia — although eating your creation while watching the TV programme can significantly depress you.

Your friends might not have helped much except with making the raitha or the salad. But in the end you will realise it was well worth the effort. Nothing beats that feeling of friends enjoying your dish — they may well have no alternative — and beholding emptied serving vessels! (Hey, what’s that bit of okra fry doing in the kitchen bin?!)

With practice, anyway, you will fine tune your culinary processes and grin with satisfaction that you actually produce better stuff than that overpriced hotel at the end of your street. Here’s to more cooking away from home!


Elysium: Director Shankar’s ultimate wet dream


I stepped out of the theatre thinking Hollywood had finally paid the deserved homage to Director Shankar. Or is still teasing him.

It seems all you need to make sure your film doesn’t horribly flop these days is to simply splash it with serious socialist overtones… and undertones. Doesn’t matter what the plot; make sure the underdog wins at the end of the day with a great dose of self-sacrifice.

On the Shankar homage theory, just try to remember the time you watched any of his flicks on the large screen and all that was packaged into them: distant dystopian world managed by robots (having lesser processing power than Chitti), the haves versus the have-nots, the stereotype hit man who has rapist tendencies and yearns to take control from his own master, who mouths dialogues that Liam Neeson/Vidyut Jamawal have already pulled off in Taken/Thuppaki with great charisma (‘I will find you! I will hunt you down!’ or some equal variant), the single mother who will do anything to protect her only dying child, the apathetic capitalist who has monopoly over all the technology on earth and is in nexus with evil politicians, stakes lined up against a hero who must fulfill his duty when least expected — against his will — and may have to end up paying his life for it (He does..haha, see I saved you wasteful expenditure).

One can clearly see that the plot is so formulaic that they must ripped it off Shankar’s rough notes.

Why would you want to waste your two hours watching this?

Matt Damon, for one thing.

The actor is just too dedicated and he really means it when he says he’s director-oriented. He is even open of his leftist beliefs which make him perfect Shankar material. The guy looks so menacing even when he’s tonsured his head.

The film, sadly, doesn’t have songs filmed in exotic locations like Machchu Pichchu or the Keukenhof gardens. But all this compensated with Hollywood’s CG extravaganza — Shankar’s ultimate wet dream — and immense research to produce jaw-dropping settings. You believe it is really 2154 AD when the world has been over-exploited, left to rot with diseased human beings.

Elysium: that mythical place where the most blessed Greeks found paradise in their afterlives. The blessed in the film live in their Elysian fields, an extensive spacecraft built a few thousand kilometers of Earth’s surface, in their lavish villas which resemble celeb homes in Beverly Hills. They all possess a healing device so advanced that it can cure you of any cancer and make you nearly immortal, putting Ridley’s Scott’s fix-it-all surgical machine in Prometheus to shame.

The central question being thrown at you is why this medical miracle can’t be made available to all? For free?

Probing deeper, perhaps Damon is blatantly throwing his weight behind Obamacare through this film (which is an excellent reason why furloughed US State officials can watch this movie while their government shuts down).  But hey, if I was probing that deep, I might as well mention that the President who heads the utopian Elysians is a Gujju (sniff, sniff.. NaMo for 2014?). Also Jodie Foster’s English accent and attempt at French are horrible.

It is at this point where I feel sorry for directors like Shankar. We immediately start cringing and tch-tch’ing when Shankar imagines his socialist utopia through a shoestring budget CG. The slums flatten and get replaced with sprouting cement houses as the hero walks past them. Roads turn smooth and pothole-free. A graphically-rendered Toyota Prius silently zooms past a feedback box into which a shenbaga poo plops. A feel-good background chime by AR Rahman blends in.

Here’s where people chortle: ‘Ha! What rubbish. Shankar always overdoes these things. Totally uncalled for.’ Its the same people who in intelligent living room conversations would bellow: ‘If Singapore, which achieved independence after 1947, could grow so much..So can India!’ That Shankar has already explained with great exasperation that statistic in Anniyan does not matter to them.

What you should definitely ask is how Hollywood manages to escape time and again with such mediocre content like Elysium? They in fact are the real-world Elysians who have it all and leave people like Shankar with no choice but to produce horrible, CG-bereft remakes like Nanban.

Well tried with Elysium, Hollywood. You almost pulled it off. But you forgot the magic ingredient: masala item numbers.